Jim Beam column:Elections, education top issues

Published 6:21 am Saturday, March 16, 2024

Louisiana legislators have filed some 40 bills dealing with state elections and many others on education. One of the election bills, if it passes, should be called the Edwards Act.

Rep. Mike Bayham, R-Chalmette, is sponsoring House  Bill 111 that provides that a person who has served as governor for more than one and one-half terms can’t ever be elected again.

The late-Gov. Edwin W. Edwards served an unprecedented four terms, and the third one came when he defeated Republican Gov. David Treen in 1983. Edwards won his fourth term when Republican David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan member, made the runoff in 1991.

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Former Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, no relation to Edwin Edwards, couldn’t run for a third term last year, but he could run again in 2027. However, Bayham’s bill would kill his chances.

If Edwin Edwards was lucky enough to win four terms, why deny others the same opportunity?

Rep. Kyle Green Jr., D-Marrero, has filed five proposed constitutional amendments that require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature and a majority vote of the people.

His HB 158 deals with officials who can succeed the governor. Under the current system, it’s the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, the treasurer, the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House.

Green wants the Senate president to follow the lieutenant governor and the House speaker to be in the third position. Putting them ahead of officials who are elected statewide may be a tough sell.

Green’s HB 275 would have the governor and lieutenant governor elected jointly. A voter would cast a single vote for both candidates who would  be running together.

The third Green amendment —HB 157 —would provide that all statewide elected officials could only serve two consecutive terms. Voters like term limits, but legislators might have some reservations about this one.

Green’s fourth amendment — HB 250 — changes the dates of legislative sessions. All of them would begin on the second Monday in February and end no later than May 30. There would also be no subject matter restrictions and deadlines for bills. And legislators with a two-thirds vote could change the timing of annual sessions. That may be another tough sell.

The fifth proposed Green amendment is HB 251 that would elect the governor, other statewide elected officials, members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, sheriffs, clerks of court, coroners, and tax assessors at regularly scheduled congressional elections in years without a regularly scheduled presidential election.

In a news report on education bills, The Advocate said one education bill would repeal policies that require teachers to give lessons on a range of topics, including cursive writing, dating violence, internet safety and mental health.

The legislation also says teachers no longer need to be trained in first aid, suicide prevention, bullying and other issues. Rep. Charles Owen, R-Rosepine, is the sponsor of  HB 320. Most of those seem like good education topics that should continue.

Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, has filed HB 71 that requires display of the Ten Commandments in every public and charter elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education classroom and in each building a school uses.

Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Gray, has filed HB 334 that authorizes school boards to provide for chaplains to serve in public schools as employees or on a volunteer basis. The legislation provides that a chaplain’s programs or services would be optional.

Sen. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, has filed Senate Bill 123, a similar chaplains bill.

Finally, I was happy to see that Rep. Larry A. Bagley, R-Stonewall, has once again filed a bill — HB 344 — that eliminates most vehicle inspections.

Bagley told Nexstar Media, “Cars back 20 years ago, when this came to be, were not in nearly as good of shape as they are now. We are in a different era about all of those things, and  I just thought it was time to change.”

Law enforcement officers would still have the authority to issue citations for motor vehicles that are deemed unsafe.

The odds are we are going to see many more unusual bills among the 1,121 that have been filed so far.


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